In this blog we explore the fourth of six initiatives in the transformation of individuals and organizations. Here we examine ways to draw forth and share insights that inspire us to change.
Initiative #4: Help express new awareness and perspectives through discourse and deep listening.
Describing What You’ve Never Seen Before
When an individual or team within an organization explores a disorienting dilemma and discovers a potential path to a more productive future, they are often exploring uncharted territory. In the act of stepping up to a new perceptual level, or receiving an inspired view of a potential new way of operating, we may not have the language to explain what we perceive. How can we share information with people when we cannot express what we are experiencing? There is a way to help reveal what we find difficult to express.
In my research of transformative change, subjects would first attempt to point to differences between how they used to behave and how they now behave. But when there were no significant changes in behavior to point to, they would reference internal changes, changes that by nature are intangible and abstruse but still very real. What I realized was that in my efforts to understand what the subjects were saying, by pressing them to clarify, they were able to find the words to do so. This process is at the heart of dialogue and deep listening, described in the MIT Dialogue Project.
Dialogue and Deep Listening
There are four levels of listening. Level one is downloading or describing habitual patterns of thinking from our history. Level two is debate in which we make connections between shared facts and state differences. Level three is dialogue, when we make personal connection through sharing and listening to each other. This is when we inquire into each other’s mental models and think together in novel ways about what each is saying. Level four is presencing (being present and sensing) in which we have an authentic sharing and listening—not to what is between our ears, but to what is between our noses. In this way we begin attending to a deeper space that researchers call our “source connection.” This deep space of collective intelligence from which the emerging future can be revealed, is an awareness that is beyond our individual mental models.
Research revealed that when people achieve an inspired breakthrough in awareness—a transformational leap beyond their own mental model—we need to take the time in dialogue and deep listening to help bring voice to that awareness. When we actively enter deep dialogue, there are additional advantages to leaders and organizations as well. When presensing we can transcend the blind spots of our current mental model that have become our habit of expectation. As we begin to see the bigger picture within which we are unconsciously operating, we gain more purposeful choice regarding our thinking, feeling, and behaving. This capacity for critical reflection is the one activity most likely to facilitate transformative learning in ourselves and others.
The best definition of transformative learning is this: becoming aware of our own meaning making process and purposefully changing the way we make meaning. As leaders, it is up to us to facilitate dialogues in which such transformation can occur.
In our next blog post, we will explore the fifth initiative to transform individuals and organizations. In it, you will gain ways to illuminate innovative ideas, new ways of thinking, and perspectives that become apparent through.
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